Hot take: Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are reinvigorating politics and shaking up the left wing establishment. It's a cliche of political blogging, drawing out the obvious comparisons between old white men, both veteran socialist campaigners who are enjoying an unlikely period of success despite many people writing off their ideology in the early 90s.
It shows how complacent the centre left in Britain and America have become. Before the UK general election, and when the American Presidential election had only been going on for 6 months (why does it last 2 years?), no one would have imagined that Jeremy Corbyn would win a landslide victory to lead the Labour Party and that Bernie Sanders would give Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Then again, a year ago we were told that Donald Trump could never be the Republican Nominee.
The centre left (the Clintons, Coopers and Burnhams of this world) have been startled by a surge in support for the far left, mainly amongst younger and more disenfranchised party members. Their only response has been scare tactics. The conversation has been remarkably similar on both sides of the Atlantic: "he'll alienate moderates, he's unelectable, look at that awful right wing guy with freaky hair who will get power if we choose him".
If Sanders and Corbyn are so completely unelectable, then how come professional centre left politicians with years of experience, huge amounts of money, massive popular recognition and opinions that (apparently) everyone agrees with cannot beat them? Could it be because the centre left has completely lost its way and has nothing to offer anymore? Does anyone seriously think that electing Hillary Clinton as President will change much?
When Barack Obama was elected President back in 2008 I was hopefully for change. Eight long, painful years of George Bush Jr's presidency was coming to an end. A young, energetic, exciting politician was sweeping his way to victory. Surely after the disastrous wars and economic collapse of previous Republican government, things were going to be different this time.
For a while that hope lasted, Obama said he would close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and deliver healthcare for millions of uninsured poor Americans. Then the Republicans took back the House of Representatives and the rest of the Obama presidency became a slow war of attrition between the Democratic White House and the Republican Congress. The pettiness reached its height in Autumn 2013 when the Republican shutdown the entire US government simply because they could.
I do not think Clinton will tackle the deep rooted problems of America: the huge economic inequality, the systematic unemployment, the criminalisation and intense poverty of African Americans, the openly xenophobic politics, the systematic assault on women's rights, the hollowing out of worker's rights, the sense of hopelessness and powerlessness that gives rise to extremism. I had more confidence that Obama would tackle these problems when he was re-elected in 2012 (despite four years of painfully slow struggle) than I do in a future Clinton presidency. What does Clinton have to offer to tackle America’s problems? Not much that is particularly inspiring.
The issue in Britain and America is that the centre left has nothing to offer to fix the problems of society (a lot of which were caused by their past periods of power, i.e. Blair and Clinton I). The centre left has run out of things to offer other than being opposed to the centre right, which they look quite similar to. The only reason why the centre left is in less of a crisis in America than in Britain is because the right is in thrall to the far right, which is scaring moderate voters. Trump is a gift to Clinton; I do not think she could have beaten Jed Bush or Marco Rubio.
Obama has achieved a lot in his 8 years, he did provide the healthcare he promised and stopped the Republican Congress from defunding it. He did pull America out of Afghanistan and Iraq (after a while). He brought Iran in from the cold and avoided the worst effects of the stagnating global economy. He did not close Guantanamo and he has taken America into wars in Libya and Syria. Clinton does not fill me with the confidence that she can even achieve this much. Her centre left politics do not seem capable of responding to the more complex and frightening world of the 21st century. They seem more appropriate to the mid 1990s when we thought the good times will never stop rolling. A slightly more compassionate neoliberalism is not what the world needs now. The world's needs change, now more than ever.
Bernie Sanders offers the change that America needs. Unfortunately his campaign was doomed from the start. His poll ratings among ethnic minorities are very low and he cannot win the democratic nomination without the support of black and Hispanic democrats. The current delegates spit is 2,228 to Clinton and 1,454 to Sanders, with 2,383 being the magic number to win the race. It looks like it will be Hillary Clinton.
Clinton will most likely defeat Trump to become the next President. I am sure she will be a good liberal President. She is unlikely to ban Muslims from entering the country or pass a national ban on abortions. However, I do not think she will tackle the deep rooted structural problems in American society. Oppression, hopelessness and feelings of powerlessness are rising and this breeds extremism of all flavours. America needs the type of change that Sanders promises and it needs it soon.